US admits fighting ISIS in Mosul risks civilian lives
The US says its anti-ISIS operation in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq has been a success, despite the “inevitable” suffering it brings to civilians. However, Washington has a contradictory perception of the anti-terrorist efforts by the Syrian and Russian forces in Aleppo.
“What we have seen [in Aleppo] is the regime carry out continued fighting against moderate Syrian opposition forces and really not target in meaningful way Daesh or [Al-] Nusra,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, using an acronym for Islamic State’s original name in Arabic.
As the battle for Mosul raged for a second day, Toner was asked about differences between the US-led fight and similar anti-terrorist efforts in Aleppo.
“First of all, we are working in a supportive capacity, it's the Iraqi government, Iraqi forces that are carrying out operation in Mosul and that is to go after and destroy Daesh, drive it out of Mosul,” he said. “It has been very successful in doing so throughout other cities and regions in the country.”
In Washington, officials admit that the fight for Mosul will go hand-in-hand with the “inevitable” displacement of civilians, but believe putting lives in danger is worth the candle.
“We are aware civilian lives are at risks in Mosul,” Toner has said. “It's been well documented with, for example, in respect to Tikrit and Ramadi and other places that have been liberated, that ISIL shows no hesitation to use civilians as human shields, to booby-trap houses, to place mines and they are willing to do it with no regard for the safety of civilians.”
On Monday, the British Red Cross said that more than 1 million people are expected to flee their homes and leave Mosul.
The US State Department also said Washington has “committed a lot of money and a lot of effort” to mitigate effects of the war in the city.
In the meantime, in rebel-held Aleppo in neighboring Syria, scores of civilians have been blocked off from government-controlled areas, with no access to humanitarian aid.
The city has seen some of the most ferocious fighting since the ceasefire collapsed on September 12, but, unlike Mosul, has failed to gain much help from the US government.
Instead, Washington has been accusing Russian forces of solely bombarding civilians and the “moderate opposition.” Stressing that Russia is “aiding the regime and its actions around Aleppo,” Toner made no mention of America’s support for the rebels. He briefly brought up “intermingling between members of the opposition and Nusra” terrorists.
Civilians on the ground have been telling RT that anti-Assad rebels have been targeting infrastructure and local people. Their most recent shelling claimed lives of at least three locals and left 27 injured.
BREAKING: Rebel shelling in western Aleppo kills 3, injures 27, incl. children https://t.co/ttz2G7IuPq— RT (@RT_com) October 18, 2016
The attack came amid the 48-hour “humanitarian pause” by Russian and Syrian forces that was imposed on Tuesday to enable humanitarian aid deliveries.
Earlier the US accused Russia of failing to deliver on a promise to make sure Damascus suspended its military campaign and provide humanitarian access to besieged areas of Syria.
Yet, news of the “humanitarian pause” was met with skepticism at the State Department.
“If there is actually an eight-hour pause in the unremitting suffering of the people of Aleppo, that would be a good thing; but frankly, it’s a bit too little, too late,” Toner said Monday.
While civilians in Mosul are getting ready to leave the battlefield, there is no indication that Aleppo can be expecting the same.
Last week, Toner’s colleague John Kirby responded to RT’s question on evacuation, saying that people of Aleppo “shouldn’t have to leave.”
At the UN, the world’s focus on Mosul is seen as a concern because it can draw attention off of Syria.
“If we cannot find a solution, Aleppo will not be there anymore” between now and December, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Monday.
Johannes Hübner, an MP for Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, told RT that by downplaying the potential consequences for the civilian population from the Mosul offensive, and at the same being vocal about the plight of civilians in Aleppo, Washington is acting hypocritically.
“It depends on who is threatening civilians. If it is America, or America-backed forces or an America-backed operation, it’s usually OK and civilian casualties are collateral damage,” the politician said, adding that if a party which is not a US ally can endanger civilians, Washington would portray it as a villain.
“If it’s from the other side, if it’s from parties opposed to American interests or opposed to American-backed parties, it is almost a crime against humanity, as you have seen in Aleppo,” he said.
Taking into account the “normal American and partly western double standard it’s quite [predictable] that the operation in Mosul can continue, [regardless] of civilian casualties,” he said.